Cover image for Plunking Reggie Jackson
Plunking Reggie Jackson
Bennett, James W., 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2001.
Physical Description:
204 pages ; 22 cm
High school baseball star Coley Burke tries to deal with an ankle injury, back spasms, a pregnant girlfriend, academic failure, pressure from his father, and the legacy of his dead older brother.
Reading Level:
610 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.7 8.0 45707.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.2 14 Quiz: 24903 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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He wanted to see himself as a victim, but it was getting harder all the time.When Coley was a kid, his brother, Patrick, showed him how to "plunk" the life-size statue of Reggie Jackson that stands in the Burkes' backyard. If you nail the statue with a baseball in just the right place, it makes a loud gonging sound. It takes "mental toughness" -- a concept that Patrick mastered but that Coley is still trying to learn.Now Patrick is dead, killed in a drunken boating accident, and Coley is struggling to live up to their father's idealized memory of him. Like Patrick, Coley is a star high school pitcher destined for the major leagues. But an ankle injury has sidelined him for most of the season. He's flunking English and could go ineligible for the play-offs. And he's started dating Bree Madison, a gorgeous sophomore whose mysterious past is causing Coley more problems every day.When the pressures become more than Coley can handle, he and Bree run off to Florida. There, along the crystal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Coley tries to get his mind right and understand what "mental toughness" really means.The master of sports fiction for teenagers, James W. Bennett weaves a powerful story of memories, relationships, and high school baseball in this stunningly realistic novel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8-12. Popular high-school senior Coley Burke is a gifted baseball player, with a college athletic scholarship and a new girlfriend. He should be on top of the world, but falling grades threaten his eligibility, and his overbearing father is increasingly critical and obtrusive. Then Coley is benched with an injury, and his girlfriend announces she's pregnant--leaving Coley to face some difficult realities, including the truth about his deceased brother, Coley's hero and inspiration. Once again, Bennett uses a sports-novel framework to encompass familiar YA concernsamong them, dysfunctional families, guilt, drug abuse, and parental, school, and self-imposed pressure. The characters may be stereotypical, and the ambitious novel borders on soap opera at times. However, there's still a good deal to like: the straightforward prose, incorporating fairly realistic dialogue and slang, is easy to read; the baseball backdrop has appeal; and the portrait of a teen's self-doubts has elements that YA readers are likely to recognize.

Publisher's Weekly Review

High-school senior Coley Burke seems to have everything going for him. His pitching skills have won him glory at school and attracted the attention of several baseball scouts; he lives in a beautiful house (with a full-size bronze statue of Reggie Jackson in a bull pen in the backyard), drives an expensive car and has a hot new girlfriend named Bree. However, as Bennett (Dakota Dreams; The Squared Circle) pointedly relates, appearances are deceiving. The untimely death four years ago of Coley's brother Patrick, a major league player, has left Coley with a desperate need to follow in his sibling's footstepsÄincluding imitating Patrick's reckless behavior. Coley's eligibility to play ball is precarious at best due to his slipping grades, a severe ankle injury and the anxiety brought on by the news that Bree may be pregnant. Uneven pacing and a perhaps too generous spattering of clich‚d passages about Coley's exploding hormones (e.g., "Each time she stretched high to take down a book, he couldn't help staring at her shapely white thighs") mars the narrative, and Coley's attitude toward his brother, girls in general and the game of baseball remain elusive to the end. But readers may well be able to relate to the pressures plaguing Coley. As in Bennett's previous novels, the author provides a frank, insightful psychological study of a troubled teen. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Coley Burke is the prince of his central Illinois high school. A star pitcher in his senior year, he seems destined to turn pro right away or be tapped for a baseball scholarship at any number of top sports colleges. But not all is settled in his life. For one thing, his poor grades may make him ineligible to finish the season. He is also pushed by his father (the man is so obsessed with baseball that he keeps a life-sized bronze statue of Reggie Jackson in the backyard); and the earlier accidental death of his brother, who was on the verge of making it to the major leagues, is a cloud that hangs over him. The teen's problems grow more complicated, however, when he starts to date Bree Madison. It's apparent to readers that her high spirits and sexual aggressiveness mask a history of abuse at the hands of her stepfather. When she announces that she is pregnant, Coley takes off with her to Florida, eventually discovering that she has been faking the pregnancy. He returns to Illinois and, in a symbolic gesture that finishes the book, he dumps the statue into a river. The author doesn't shy away from presenting the sometimes-rough locker-room talk or offering fairly explicit descriptions of sexual situations. He also presents characters that are compelling and real, against a realistic background of high school life and sports action. Unfortunately, the ending is abrupt and simplistic. It's highly unlikely that Coley's threat to tell the guidance counselor about the stepfather's abuse would deter him, and readers aren't privy to any confrontation between Coley and his father.-Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.